Archive for the ‘Spirits & Liqueurs’ Category

Aerona – a special liqueur from Dwyfor


Aerona is a liqueur made from Aronia berries and is a result of a serendipitous meeting of a farm diversification project and a great idea.

Rhedynog Isaf farm is near to Chwilog in Gwynedd and it is here that Hazel a Gwilym Jones make Aerona . The Aronia berries came to the farm thanks to the MENTERRA project. This project sought to find out which crops could be grown in Wales for future possible farm diversification. A number of different crops were grown as part of this project on different farms and it was Aronia came to Rhedynog Isaf.


When the project concluded there were 200 bushes in a field, so what to do with them? They aren’t the best tasting berry but they are strong in vitamin C and antioxidants.

Hazel experimented with making jam and so forth and considered making country wine but then she had her ‘lightbulb moment’ and thought about developing a liqueur.

To make Aerona liqueur the berries are harvested by hand at the end of the summer up to early autumn and then are frozen to keep until it’s time to use them. To make Aerona ,the berries are put into plastic tubs containing neutral spirit and stay there for three months in an old barn. During this time the spirit breaks down the berries and the flavour and colour infuses into the spirit. The liqueur is then bottled by hand on the farm.

Hazel busy bottling

Hazel busy bottling

Aerona has been a success. They now need to expand and another barn will be pressed into action. Also, as well as the original 200 bushes a further thousand have been planted.

Once the liqueur is made the berries aren’t wasted, they are dried and are used to make a delicious chocolate.

Aerona 006

It appears that there is a bright future for Aerona.

Between 9-10 on the evening of Wednesday 26 March I’ll be hosting a tweetasting of Aerona, buy a bottle and join in using #drinkswales

October Welsh Drink of the Month – Celtic Country Wines: Celteg Medieval Mead (12.0%abv)


I haven’t featured anything from the spirits and liqueurs category as yet and that’s about to change. So, something completely different this month – mead.

There’s a long history of mead-making in Wales and there are a few contemporary meads available as well. By coincidence there was a story on a mead resurgence in the US on the BBC news page today.

The mead featured here is made by Celtic Country Wines who are based near to Newcastle Emlyn in Ceredigion. The make a range of country (fruit) wines and liqueurs as well as preserves. All their products now go under the name Celteg and they have been producing for over 25 years, growing considerably during that time.

I haven’t tried much in the way of mead so I’m looking forward to this tasting.

As usual, you can leave your comments here on the blog and/or …

Join in the live tweetasting on Thursday 10 October between 9-10pm using #drinkswales

Spirits and liqueurs


I’ve looked at the other market segments, but not spirits and liqueurs, so it’s about time I put that right.

Spirits and liqueurs are a very diverse category indeed. It includes whisky, gin, vodka, mead and all kinds of liqueurs. Actually, there’s a questionmark over whether it’s a meaningful category at all but I think it just about scrapes it as a catch-all for the rest of the industry.

Without any doubt the leading company here is Penderyn, its whiskies are multi-award winning and highly rated. As well as single malt whisky it also makes other premium spirits and recently announced a big expansion.

Among the other producers there are some quality liqueurs being produced and Condessa won gold and bronze at the recent Wales the True Taste awards. Liqueurs is currently a market segment in growth due to the high-end cocktail renaissance.

We have a good number of liqueur producers in Wales and they could be well placed to capitalise on this. To do so they need to learn Penderyn’s lesson and realise that consumers are increasingly sophisticated – quality needs to be both inside and outside the bottle. There are some producers whose products may be seen as ‘novelty’ items, these are less likely to see growth.

Among the other producers in this diverse category are those that make mead and country wines. These are areas that traditionally see little serious interest.  It would certainly be a challenge for any company to see serious growth, but, then again, drinkers are always looking for the next ‘big thing’.

So, this diverse category is potentially a very interesting one and could grow in different directions, but there’s also a lot of work to be done by the producers to emulate Penderyn’s success.

Welsh gin head to head


The Welsh Whisky Company, most famous for its Penderyn single malt whisky, has a well established gin – Brecon Special Reserve. However, recently they released a small batch limited gin named Brecon Botanicals.

This was released following the demand of their Spanish distributor and is lovingly packaged, as would be expected from anything coming from this company. The bottle features illustrations of the botanicals used on the front of the bottle and on the inside of the back label.

Having two gins leads to what else but a head to head tasting, here’s how I got on…


Juniper and citrus was more evident in the Special Reserve and, whilst also present in the Botanicals, it felt spicier, sweeter and had an altogether stronger flavour profile.

Water added:

Citrus is accentuated in the Special Reserve, the Botanicals becomes more fragrant but spice remains, again the enhanced flavour profile of the Botanicals is evident.

Gin & Tonic

This seems to bring out more sweetness in the Special Reserve.

On the whole they are clearly from the same stable and the differences are ones of degree as opposed to being fundamentally different. Botanicals does have a slightly stronger flavour profile and is a slightly more premium product. Bottom line – both are great gins with Botanicals offering a touch more.



Big news in the Welsh drinks industry last week was Penderyn’s £1m investment.

What are they spending it on? Well, firstly, they are installing a second still akin to the original one. This is a bit different to the traditional pot still in that it is a pot with a column still on top and is a key part of what makes Penderyn unique. By adding a second still they can effectively double production and allow them to meet the demand in their core markets and target other markets in Europe, North America and Asia with their fabulous single malt.

Stephen Davies, MD of the company says that to meet demand they have to expand as they have hit production capacity with their single still. He goes on to say that “this is a significant milestone for us: ever since our first bottles hit the shelves in 2004 the quality of our products has shone through, helping us to grow the distillery into a company which sells single malt whisky all over the world. We’re already well distributed in the UK and are investing in new markets such as France and Germany, but expect to expand further throughout Europe. We have ambitions to explore further possibilities in North America and Asia on completion of the expansion project.”

This is a great sign for the company showing that they are doing well and are planning now for a forecasted increase in demand. Remember, whisky must age at least three years before it can be bottled so peering into the future isn’t a nice to do, in the whisky business it’s a must do!

But that’s not all, they are also installing a conventional two pot still plant. This they say will allow them to produce ‘new and creative styles and expressions of single malt’. Penderyn is a very high quality single malt, the thought of experimental styles and expressions is exciting indeed.

It’ll be a little while yet before they’re on stream and producing spirit as the as the partner to the current still is not being commissioned until August this year and the two pot still unit in January 2014. It will be very interesting in a few years time to compare the products of their pot and column still combination with the output of the two pot still plant.

Another point worthy of note is that the Welsh Government have supported this expansion, again showing that they are beginning to understand the potential of our drinks industry.

This is great news all round and will also be good for the Welsh drinks industry generally in that it pushes Welsh drinks to the forefront in more and more countries world wide.

Since day one Penderyn have gone for a quality product in quality packaging with quality branding. The last two are important but the first is paramount. Penderyn is a quality spirit and when allied with very good cask procurement and management the results are a whisky that holds its own on the world stage. Exciting times indeed for Welsh whisky.



Y newyddion mawr yn niwydiant diodydd Cymru’r wythnos diwethaf oedd buddsoddiad o £1m gan Penderyn.

Ar beth fyddent yn ei wario? Wel, yn gyntaf maent yn gosod stil newydd yr un fath a’r un gwreiddiol. Mae hwn yn ychydig yn wahanol i’r pot traddodiadol gan ei fod yn bot gyda cholofn ar ei ben ac mae’n rhan allweddol o beth sy’n gwneud Penderyn yn unigryw.

Dywedodd Stephen Davies, Rheolwr Gyfarwyddwr y cwmni fod angen ehangu er mwyn ateb y galw am eu wisgi gan nad ydynt yn medru cynhyrchu mwy gyda’r un stil presennol. Mae’n mynd ymlaen i ddweud bod “mae hwn yn garreg filltir arwyddocaol i ni: byth ers ein poteli gyntaf daro’r silffoedd yn 2004 mae ansawdd ein cynnyrch wedi disgleirio, gan ein helpu i dyfu’r i fod yn gwmni sy’n gwerthu wisgi brag sengl ar hyd a lled y byd. Rydym eisoes yn dosbarthu’n dda yn y DU ac yn buddsoddi mewn marchnadoedd newydd fel Ffrainc a’r Almaen, ond yn disgwyl i ehangu ymhellach ledled Ewrop. Mae gennym uchelgais i archwilio posibiliadau pellach yng Ngogledd America ac Asia ar ôl cwblhau’r prosiect ehangu.”

Mae hyn yn arwydd gwych i’r cwmni ac yn dangos eu bod yn gwneud yn dda ac yn cynllunio o flaen llaw ar gyfer cynnydd a ragwelir yn y galw am eu cynnyrch. Cofiwch, rhaid i wisgi aeddfedu am o leiaf dair blynedd cyn y gellir ei botelu. Mae hyn yn golygu nad yw cynllunio i’r dyfodol yn rhywbeth sy’n braf i’w wneud, yn y busnes wisgi, mae’n angenrheidiol!

Ond nid dyna’r cyfan, maent hefyd yn gosod uned gynhyrchu o ddau pot stil confensiynol. Dywedant y bydd hyn yn eu galluogi i gynhyrchu ‘steiliau a mathau newydd a chreadigol o wisgi brag sengl’. Mae Penderyn yn wisgi brag sengl o ansawdd uchel iawn ac mae’r syniad o steiliau a mathau arbrofol o wisgi yn un gyffrous dros ben

Bydd yn ychydig eto cyn eu bod yn barod i gynhyrchu gwirod gan nad yw partner i’r stil presennol yn cael ei gomisiynu tan fis Awst eleni a’r uned ddau bot tan fis Ionawr 2014. Bydd yn ddiddorol iawn mewn ychydig flynyddoedd i gymharu cynnyrch eu pot a cholofn a’r cynnyrch o’r uned ddau bot confensiynol.

Pwynt arall sydd werth ei nodi yw bod Llywodraeth Cymru wedi cefnogi’r prosiect hwn, sydd yn dangos unwaith eto eu bod yn dechrau deall potensial ein diwydiant diodydd.

Heb os mae hyn yn newyddion gwych a fydd hefyd yn dda ar gyfer diwydiant diodydd Cymru yn gyffredinol gan ei fod yn gwthio diodydd Cymru i flaen y gad mewn mwy a mwy o wledydd ledled y byd.

Ers y cychwyn cyntaf mae Penderyn wedi anelu at yr ansawdd uchaf yn eu cynnyrch, pecynnu a’u brandio. Mae’r ddau olaf yn bwysig, ond y cyntaf sy’n hollbwysig. Mae gwirod Penderyn o’r ansawdd gorau a phan mae hyn yn gysylltiedig â chyfundrefn caffael a rheoli casgiau da iawn y canlyniadau yw wisgi sydd yn dal ei dir ar y llwyfan rhyngwladol. Cyfnod cyffrous yn wir i wisgi Cymreig